Possible HIV vaccine fails in study

Researchers have stopped giving an experimental HIV vaccine in a major study in South Africa.
Researchers have stopped giving an experimental HIV vaccine in a major study in South Africa.

The latest attempt at an HIV vaccine has failed as researchers announced they had stopped giving the experimental shots in a major study.

The study had enrolled more than 5400 people since 2016 in South Africa, a country with one of the world's highest HIV rates.

Last month, monitors checked how the study was going and found 129 HIV infections had occurred among the vaccine recipients compared with 123 among those given a dummy shot, according to the US National Institutes of Health.

"An HIV vaccine is essential to end the global pandemic and we hoped this vaccine candidate would work. Regrettably, it does not," NIH infectious diseases chief Dr Anthony Fauci said.

There were no safety concerns but NIH, which sponsored the study, agreed that vaccinations should stop.

The experimental shot was based on the only vaccine shown to offer even modest protection against HIV, one that was deemed 31 per cent effective in Thailand.

That was not good enough for real-world use but gave scientists a starting point. They beefed up the shot and adapted it to the HIV subtype that is common in southern Africa.

Two other large studies, in several countries, are under way testing a different approach to a possible HIV vaccine.

Australian Associated Press